Guatemala is one of the largest producers of poppy in Latin America. According to a report by International Crisis Group, poppy farmers in Guatemala harvest more poppy plants per acre than growers in any other country, with the city of San Marcos serving as the epicenter of cultivation. From there, the illicit crops are shipped over the border to Mexico, where they are processed into heroin before being smuggled into the US. Recently, the government deployed a Mountain Special Operations Group to combat the poppy trade in the region.
This spring, a US Army team accompanied their Guatemalan partners to observe an eradication operation in the mountains of San Marcos. They met with local leaders to discuss ways to prevent future cultivation in the village. The team learned that many children in the region drop out of school after being recruited to harvest the poppy plants. After engagements with the US team, local leaders have slowly replaced poppy production with vegetable cultivation. School attendance has doubled, and so has the perception of the local government. However, the US team on the ground noticed that most of these schools lack books and school supplies. Simple items such as backpacks, notebooks, pens, and pencils would incentivize children to stay in school. Supporting local schools through educational materials will have a positive influence on the community and is vital for the future of the youth.
With your help, we can assist the US team, the Guatemalan government, and local leaders as they continue to support the wellbeing of the youth. This not only prevents illicit cultivation, but also enables young minds and promotes the safety and success of Americans serving abroad and the local partners they seek to help.